Extracellular Vesicles as Drug Targets and Delivery Vehicles for Cancer Therapy

Pharmaceutics. 2022 Dec 16;14(12):2822. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14122822.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are particles that are released from cells into the extracellular space both under pathological and normal conditions. It is now well established that cancer cells secrete more EVs compared to non-cancerous cells and that, captivatingly, several proteins that are involved in EV biogenesis and secretion are upregulated in various tumours. Recent studies have revealed that EVs facilitate the interaction between cancer cells and their microenvironment and play a substantial role in the growth of tumours. As EVs are involved in several aspects of cancer progression including angiogenesis, organotropism, pre-metastatic niche formation, fostering of metastasis, and chemoresistance, inhibiting the release of EVs from cancer and the surrounding tumour microenvironment cells has been proposed as an ideal strategy to treat cancer and associated paraneoplastic syndromes. Lately, EVs have shown immense benefits in preclinical settings as a novel drug delivery vehicle. This review provides a brief overview of the role of EVs in various hallmarks of cancer, focusing on (i) strategies to treat cancer by therapeutically targeting the release of tumour-derived EVs and (ii) EVs as valuable drug delivery vehicles. Furthermore, we also outline the drawbacks of the existing anti-cancer treatments and the future prospective of EV-based therapeutics.

Keywords: cancer therapy; drug delivery vehicles; drug targets; extracellular vesicles.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

Suresh Mathivanan is supported by the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT180100333). The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript. Pamali Fonseka is supported by the CASS Foundation Medicine/Science Grant and Jack Brockhoff Foundation Early Career Medical Research Grant program.